Reggae royalty Chin in a groove

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 November, 2009, 12:00am

'Sorry, I was watching the Yankees game,' Clive Chin says from New York after missing an earlier call. He sounds subdued after watching his team, the New York Yankees, lose game five of the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. Chin will have cheered up since as the Yankees yesterday recovered to take game six and wrap up the World Series.

'Wait - what team do you support?' he asks. There is only one way to answer that. 'OK, good. Let's talk.'

The Jamaican-born Chinese music producer's love for the Yankees dates back to 1979, when his family left Kingston, Jamaica, for New York, but his love for reggae stretches back to his childhood in the Caribbean country in the 1950s.

Chin's father, Vincent Chin, operated a recording studio above his record shop in Kingston, which Clive oversaw as a teenager. The studio was booked by recording artists such as a pre-Wailers Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Gregory Isaacs and Augustus Pablo. In 1973, at the age of 19, Clive recorded Marley's first global hit album, Catch a Fire.

'Everything about Bob was love,' Clive says. 'I didn't have the foresight to see he was going to be so huge one day. We just played music and the music loved us.'

This weekend, Clive, 55, will visit China for the first time; he's planning stops in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai to play a musical history of 70s reggae and its precursors. 'I'll be playing a lot of old-school music, starting with the early music of Jamaica from the 50s: mento, dub, ska. Then I'll take it up another level to some rock steady and early reggae. Then I'll take it up to another level and probably play tracks from some of my favourite reggae albums, like Catch a Fire and Equal Rights.'

Clive is delighted to finally be able to return to the mainland, which Vincent and his grandfather were unable to do because of political sensitivities between the mainland and Jamaica. 'It's my time, as the third generation. Right now China wants to open up more to the West, and it's the perfect time to share our roots and culture. After this I hope to record with some artists there, too,' he says. 'I want the people of Asia to hear the message that reggae heals nations. What we bring isn't political.'

Reggae Legend: Clive Chin, 10pm, Backstage, 1/F, 52-54 Wellington St, Central, HK$150 before midnight (includes one drink), HK$180 after midnight. Inquiries: 9753 7293